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Braden Holtby keeps impressing for Capitals

Defending Vezina Trophy winner giving Washington everything it can ask for against Maple Leafs, and more

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

TORONTO - After being named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy for the second season on a row on Saturday, Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby predictably deflected credit to his teammates and coaches, saying, "That's as much them as it is me."

But the Capitals, who aim to close out the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports, CSN-DC), know how important Holtby has been to their success.

"He's put three pretty good years together for us since I've been here," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "I just think he's gotten better and better every year because it's becoming normal for him to have a high-quality standard. Those great goaltenders or great players in this league, they do it the right way all the time and Braden's one of those guys, and that's why he's had great success."


[RELATED: 5 Keys: Capitals at Maple Leafs, Game 6 | Complete Capitals-Maple Leafs coverage]


Holtby, 27, won the Vezina, voted on by the League's general managers, for the first time last season. Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens are the other Vezina finalists this season.

The winner will be announced at the 2017 NHL Awards at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on June 21 (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN).

"He deserves it again," Capitals center Jay Beagle said. "He's an unbelievable goaltender. He works his hardest every day, so it's good to see."

After tying Martin Brodeur's NHL record with 48 wins last season, Holtby led the League with nine shutouts this season, and his 42 wins tied for first with Cam Talbot of the Edmonton Oilers. Holtby joined Brodeur and Evgeni Nabokov as the only goaltenders in League history with three consecutive 40-win seasons.

Holtby also ranked second in the NHL with a 2.07 goals-against average and fourth with a .925 save percentage among goalies who made at least 25 appearances. Holtby and Bobrovsky were the only two goaltenders to rank in the top five in wins, shutouts, GAA and save percentage.

Video: WSH@TOR, Gm4: Holtby denies Nylander and van Riemsdyk

"It shows the commitment our team has had and our goaltending department," Holtby said, "especially our coaches, our video coaches, to playing a consistent game throughout the year."

Trotz said he didn't know how good a goaltender Holtby was when he was coaching the Nashville Predators prior to joining the Capitals.

"He's a real pro," Trotz said. "You know how he prepares with the detail and he's worked on his game with [goalie coach] Mitch Korn to tighten that up in areas and his athletic ability and competitive spirit, all those things have come together."

Holtby went through a tough stretch in Games 2-4 against the Maple Leafs, allowing four goals in each game, several on odd bounces and deflections. But he rebounded to make 24 saves in a 2-1 overtime win in Game 5 on Friday. Holtby again credited his teammates for that.

Video: TOR@WSH, Gm5: Holtby slides across and stops Komarov

"We were fronting pucks better, forcing up top a little more, boxing out a bit," Holtby said. "I thought we did a fairly good job in Game 4 [a 5-4 Capitals win] as well. It was just things happened. I've thought we've gotten considerably better throughout the series and [Sunday] will have to be our best one."

Beagle said he never worried about Holtby.

"I think he's been unreal all series. He's been unreal all year," Beagle said. "When pucks are bouncing in - I think it was two out of 11 [goals at one point] that were straight shots - that's on us. We really had an emphasis on clearing guys out of the zone and making sure he can see pucks."

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